Dr John Blythe - the founder and clinical director of several paediatric psychology clinics in Sydney. John has served as a Lecturer and adjunct fellow in the School of Psychology at the Western Sydney University, and currently provides clinical supervision to master’s students from several Universities. John’s clinical and research interests focus on the diagnosis and treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders. John is a supervising member of the APS College of Clinical Psychologists and is actively involved in teaching and training events for parents, teachers and colleagues.

Opening Keynote Address: Emerging Trends in Understanding Childhood Disorders.

With DSM-5 now well entrenched in the diagnostic landscape, we have the opportunity to look back and critically examine the benefits and frustrations it has brought to child psychology practice. In particular we will examine the validity of the DSM approach and whether it "really fits" the way children and families present in real life? Are there ways we can make DSM-5 more relevant to young persons and the difficulties they face? Or do we need to start looking in a whole new direction?

Workshop: Differential Diagnosis in Child & Adolescent Populations

Differential Diagnosis in Child & Adolescent populations explores the issues facing clinican's when answering the all important question "What is really wrong here?". Children often come to us with a "shopping list" of diagnoses which may or may not really explain what is going on. We will look at some of the inherent problems when using DSM-5 and ICD-11 to reach accurate diagnoses for young persons. During the workshop, an emerging alternative system will be presented based on work being done by the National Institute of Mental health in North America. 


Dr Mark Cross, MBChB (Cape Town), MRCPsych(UK), FRANZCP: Mark is a Psychiatrist with over 25 years of experience working in the field of mental health. Since moving to Australia in 2005, he has worked as a specialist in Sydney's South West, as Clinical Director at Liverpool Hospital from 2006-2014, then as Senior Psychiatrist running the only Youth ward (public) in NSW until 2016. He now runs private practices at several locations in NSW. He is a Senior Lecturer at UNSW and was awarded a teaching award by the school of Psychiatry at UNSW in 2014. He was the senior clinical lead and co-developer of the TV series "Changing Minds" for which he received a 2015 NSW Premiers award for service to public health and was awarded the NSW RANZCP Meritorious award for 2015 for "significant contribution to Psychiatry".

Keynote Address: A Holistic Approach to Youth Mental Health:The The Foundations of Good Health

Tessa Keenan

Tessa Keenan is the General Manager of Narragunnawali: Reconciliation in Schools and Early Learning. She joined Reconciliation Australia in 2015 as part of a team of teachers and educators brought on board to design and develop Narragunnawali. As a non-Indigenous secondary school teacher she is committed to developing teaching and learning environments that promote reconciliation and that are inclusive of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and perspectives. She is particularly interested in how educational and cultural institutions have shaped, and continue to shape, historical narratives and contemporary identities. Tessa sees the role of teachers and educators as vital to the process of reconciliation in Australia. Prior to working at Reconciliation Australia, Tessa was a curator at the National Museum of Australia and lecturer with Nura Gili Indigenous Programs at the University of New South Wales. Tessa was born and raised on Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country (in Canberra) and currently lives and works on Gadigal Country (in Sydney).

Narragunnawali: Reconciliation in Schools and Early Learning 

Reconciliation Australia’s Narragunnawali: Reconciliation in Schools and Early Learning initiative supports the development of environments that foster a higher level of knowledge and pride in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and contributions. Narragunnawali (pronounced narra-gunna-wally) is a word from the language of the Ngunnawal people, Traditional Owners of the land on which Reconciliation Australia’s Canberra office is located, meaning alive, wellbeing, coming together and peace.

In this session, participants can learn more about the history and current context of reconciliation in Australia, focusing on its five integral and interrelated dimensions of historical acceptance; race relations; equality and equity; institutional integrity; and unity. They will be guided through practical ways to introduce meaningful reconciliation initiatives in the classroom, around the school and with the community through engaging with the Narragunnawali online platform and Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) development process.   reconciliation.org.au/narragunnawali/

Kate Renshaw

Kate Renshaw is a Play and Filial Therapist and an academic at Deakin University. As a Lecturer in Play Therapy she is responsible for providing education, research and supervision in play therapy, and teaches into the Graduate Certificate / Diploma of Therapeutic Child Play and Master of Child Play Therapy. Kate is a registered play therapy supervisor with both Australasia Play Therapy Association (APPTA) and the British Association of Play Therapists (BAPT). Kate is currently completing doctoral studies investigating the development and efficacy of the Teacher's Optimal Relationship Approach (TORA), which integrates Play and Filial Therapy principles into the education setting. In her private practice, she works therapeutically with children and families as well as offering clinical supervision to Play Therapists Australia wide. Kate has been a board member of APPTA since 2013 and is the current Vice Chair. 

How can therapeutic play and relational approaches make a difference in the lives of young people?

Play Therapy is an evidence-based, developmentally sensitive therapeutic approach to working with children, young people and families. In many parts of the world, Play Therapists, School Counsellors and School Psychologists work alongside each other to support the bio-psycho-social needs of children and adolescents. In Australia, Play Therapy is a new and innovative approach in school settings. This workshop will outline the ways in which Play Therapy can be embedded within school settings in order to strengthen the fabrics of self, relationships and learning engagement. Firstly, play development will be explored through playful audience participation. Play development and human development will then be mapped to showcase the link between play and relational approaches. Finally, the therapeutic qualities of play will open up a discussion on the possibilities for playful relational approaches in schools.


Natalie Peach is a postdoctoral research fellow at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), University of New South Wales. Natalie is the project coordinator on the COPE-A clinical trial at NDARC, which is investigating the efficacy of integrated exposure-based therapy for co-occurring post-traumatic stress and substance use disorders in adolescents. She has a Master’s degree in clinical psychology and recently completed a PhD on phenomenological relationships between psychotic symptoms, PTSD symptoms and childhood trauma in young people with early psychosis.

Post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use: Promising new treatments for adolescents

Up to 80% of adolescents have experienced trauma and one-in-seven suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a chronic, debilitating psychiatric disorder. For 50% of these adolescents, the course of their illness is further complicated by a co-occurring substance use disorder, which often develops from repeated self-medication of PTSD symptoms. Once established, both disorders serve to maintain and exacerbate the other leading to extensive social, educational, physical and psychological impairments and a chronic course of illness. It is imperative to intervene early in the trajectory in order to prevent the severe and long lasting burden associated with this common comorbidity. International guideline recommendations have shifted away from traditional sequential models of treatment for these disorders towards integrated models where both disorders are treatment simultaneously. This research presents an overview of the evidence regarding treatments options available for co-occurring PTSD and substance use, and promising new early interventions for adolescents.


Engagement between research, policy and practice communities—in order to understand, and improve the circumstances of children, young people and their families—has been his passion for more than 25 years. As a registered psychologist, academic, and senior Australian Government public servant, Prof Daryl Higgins has contributed to more than 220 publications and over 425 presentations and media engagements. In February 2017, Daryl was appointed Professor and Director, Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University. His research focuses on public health approaches to protecting children, and strategies for building child-safe organisational environments and preventing abuse. Prior to that, as Deputy Director, Australian Institute of Family Studies, he led innovative knowledge translation/exchange functions that have increased access to the evidence-base for policy makers and practitioners working to protect children and promote family and community wellbeing. He has provided advice to key influential bodies in Australia and internationally on child protection, family policy, public health approaches to child safety and wellbeing

Safeguarding children: Implications of the Royal Commission for School Psychologists and Counsellors

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse delivered its much-anticipated findings and recommendations at the end of 2017. What became clear as the Royal Commission undertook its work was that many individuals have been impacted physically, emotionally and psychologically from the actions of the very people who were tasked to protect them as children. The findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission have relevance to various aspects of the work of psychologists and counsellors, to not only meet the needs of survivors, but even more importantly, to address the prevention strategies that are needed, based on the findings of the Royal Commission. The presentation will explore next steps of implementation, and how we can play a leadership role in schools and other youth-serving organisations to ensure that the voices of children and young people are heard and their safety concerns are addressed, and that adults have the knowledge and capability to implement policies, practices to prevent and respond to harm to children, based on a platform of cultural change. Finally, I explore how we can meet the expectations of survivors who have put their trust in the Australian community for a changed future.


Madeline has a special interest in nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI), recently completing her PhD into the psychosocial determinants of the acts and functions of nonsuicidal self-injury. At Nillumbik Community Health Service, she was the Project officer on the Managing Deliberate Self Harm Project, and then co-developed and co-facilitated the From Harm To Calm therapeutic group. Madeline has also worked as a youth, school, and trauma counsellor. She has presented numerous seminars and workshops on managing NSSI in young people. She is currently working as a research fellow at Youth Support and Advocacy Services (YSAS) in Melbourne. 

Workshop: "But it's just attention seeking, right?" Reframing Nonsuicidal Self-injury for School Staff

Nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) is a significant physical and mental health concern, with an estimated lifetime prevalence in Australia of 8.1% in individuals over the age of 10 years (Martin, Swannell, Harrison, et al., 2010). Given that the onset of NSSI typically begins during the period of adolescence, it is important that all school staff have an accurate understanding of this behaviour and how to manage it within the school environment. Unfortunately, there is still considerable stigma associated with NSSI and many myths are perpetuated in the school environment. This workshop will focus on providing the knowledge and skills to debunk the myths, help destigmatize the behaviour and talk to other school personnel about NSSI. It will also address how to minimize the potential for contagion effects in the school environment and generate a discussion around confidentiality and disclosure . Finally, it will focus on NSSI policy development for schools. 


Dr Belinda Ratcliffe, lead author of the Westmead Feelings Program 1: Emotion Based Learning for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Mild Intellectual Disability, is a highly qualified Principal Clinical Psychologist and Researcher with a PhD in Autism Spectrum Disorder from the Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney. Belinda has received multiple prizes in recognition for her work. Dr Ratcliffe is currently employed as a Lecturer in Child and Adolescent Clinical Psychology at Western Sydney University. Belinda also maintains a private practice ‘Interactive Feelings’ where she provides clinical services as well as specialized training, supervision and consultancy to government and non-government agencies, including the Children’s Hospital at Westmead. Belinda is passionate about closing the research to practice gap through teaching health professionals and educators in order to improve the mental health and well-being of all children and adolescents, including those with a disability.

Workshop: Teaching Social-Emotional Skills to Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder

This 90-minute workshop will provide practical skills for school counsellors and psychologists in teaching social-emotional skills to verbal adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and/or Intellectual Disability (ID). This workshop will begin with an exploration of the clinical presentation of verbal adolescents with ASD and/or ID, and the social-emotional and mental health needs of adolescents with ASD and ID will be considered. Participants will then learn evidence-based therapy and teaching strategies to support the complex mental health of adolescents with ASD and/or ID, including the use of clinical tools to meet the learning needs of this population. Relevant clinical and practical examples will help participants learn new skills in working with a complex population of children with ASD/ID in the school setting.


Nic Newling is an outspoken advocate for mental health, suicide prevention, and sharing personal stories. Nic has reached millions of people through television, live talks, radio, print, and online.Since surviving his own mental illnesses but losing his brother to suicide, Nic now strives to make a continuing positive impact utilising sharing and listening to encourage helpful conversations around mental health, suicide prevention, and getting the most out of life. After working at the Black Dog Institute for six years he has now ventured out into sharing with the world by founding the grassroots organisation The Champions.Nic has been featured on Australian Story, Conversations with Sarah Kanowski, Huffington Post, and NBC’s TODAY show in New York. His story has also featured in the ABC’s documentary series Man Up and his mother's Human Rights Award winning memoir ‘Missing Christopher’. He is an ambassador for Australia Day, Movember, R U OK? Day, and the Australian Mental Health Prize.He now lives in Sydney with his fiancée Jaime and their dog Peanut. He continues to travel the world speaking, sharing, and working with people to help be a part of positive change.

So there’s this thing I’ve been meaning to tell you…
This session explores the student’s point of view of what it’s like to access, feel awkward about, avoid, be confused by, and gain incredible benefits from sessions with school counsellors and psychologists. We know what it’s like to be a counsellor/psychologist. But what is it like to not be a counsellor/psychologist? This talk aims to answer exactly that and many other questions representing potential barriers between support services and the students who access them.

What methods really resonate with students? What approaches sound really good on paper but don’t actually translate into reality? And most importantly, how do we get students to speak up when they most need to but feel like they can’t?

So stow away your DSM and professionally authored books from people with impressive credentials. This is the unofficial guide from a personal lived experience perspective by a former high school drop-out turned mental health speaker.


Dr Karen Hallam is a Senior Research Fellow and Research Manager at YSAS in Melbourne. Karen completed her PhD in the Psychiatry Department in the area of mood disorders and followed with a Clinical Psychology Masters. Since then, Karen has worked as a Senior Lecturer in University clinical psychology programs for a decade training clinical psychologists. Most recently, Karen has moved to Youth Support and Advocacy Service to lead research in the area of youth disadvantage and substance use as a Senior Research Fellow and Research Manager. Karen's research and clinical track record focuses on youth, wellbeing and helping people figure out who they are and what they want in order to elicit change. Karen has a passion in sharing discussions of the nexus between clinicians and clients as people… namely the therapeutic alliance. This concept is often cited but rarely understood in terms of impacts on both lives. To “live in the muck” and “walk alongside” is much of what she shares with groups and in training when discussing this unique and privileged relationship.

Workshop: The Therapeutic Alliance - Simple Concept or Complex Dynamic?

The very simple concept of therapeutic alliance is often so fundamental to us that it becomes automatic. Despite this relegation to the back of our minds, it accounts for as much as 60% of the healing experienced in a therapeutic relationship. This presentation will look to making therapeutic alliance understanding and approaches intentional and provide frameworks to improve clinician's awareness of all we do. The work will focus on humanistic (Rogers and Bugental) and existential (Yalom and May) perspectives and illustrate the impacts of therapeutic intentionality through revisiting these foundation theories through formulation based approaches into work with selected clients as case studies.


Tracy Whitmore is a Social Worker, Wellness Coach, Art Therapist and Yoga Teacher. She has recently launched her health, wellness and consultancy business, Indigo Journey, and has worked in the LGBTIQA+ sector for more than 10 years. Tracy is passionate about working towards the development of safe and inclusive spaces for LGBTIQA+ people, including their home, school and mental health services. She works closely with students, schools and families to support young people to remain engaged or reengage in school, safely. Tracy’s aim is to build the capacity of families and professionals to ensure young people have the best opportunities for a safe, healthy and celebrated existence in the world.  Tracy will share the knowledge and experience she has gained from working with young people, their families and schools. She will also share interesting findings from some of the most recent research to ensure you walk away feeling more informed, confident and with a fuller toolbox.

Be Real at School – Creating spaces for students to comfortably and safely, be themselves

This presentation explores the complexities, benefits and joys of working with LGBTIQA+ students and their families, within the school setting. It outlines the most recent statistics, information and barriers for young people accessing education, mental health and other services. We will explore labels and appropriate language, ideas on how to create a safe and inclusive school, individual therapeutic approaches and a whole of school, positive duty approach.  We will aim to build on your existing skills, knowledge and experience to improve confidence in the various roles you can play in creating a safe and inclusive experience for students, including advocacy, education and information provision to other staff, parents and students.  In addition we will explore effective strategies to support trans and gender diverse students to affirm their gender at school, including supporting school leadership, staff and families.  I will share the knowledge and experience gained from working with young people, their families and schools to ensure you walk away feeling more informed, confident and with a fuller toolbox.



Elizabeth Ashby is a mother of 3 and works as a paediatric nurse in Intensive Care, Monash Children’s Hospital.

Hayden Ashby, 20, currently lives at home and identifies as a transgender Male who attends a weekly DBT course every Friday.

Jacinta Ashby, 17, is currently completing her year 12 VCE studies who, on the side, works as a gymnastics coach and at a trampoline park. Jacinta has always had a love for the arts, where you will either find her taking photos or performing on stage, in musical productions.


“There is a lot of stigma around Transgenders and what they're going through. This is my chance to showcase how transgenders are just like anyone else and their mental illness doesn't define them.” Jacinta Ashby.

In 2018, Jacinta Ashby entered the Propsych Mentalicious Short Film Competition, an opportunity for students to use their voice and share their perspective on youth mental health. Jacinta’s short film entitled Fairytales is a documentary style film about the journey and the transition of her sister Helena to her brother, Hayden.

Following a showcasing of Fairytales, Jacinta, Hayden, and their mother Elizabeth will share their personal insights into the challenges confronted, and the joy and hope that has emerged as Hayden now identifies as a transgender Male.